She hatched out 6 Welsummer chicks in April (read about that here) and then in August she went broody again. For a week I kicked her out of the nestbox each day and collected the eggs. She’d run around the barnyard like she was supposed to until that night when she would sleep in the nest box. I figured if she was so committed I’d order her more fertile eggs (remember, I have no rooster here). So I ordered a dozen from a fellow chicken keeper (Dipsy Doodle Doo) in Arkansas (Clovis Place Garden and Poultry) whom I met through BackyardChickens.com. She was kind enough to put together a variety pack of colored egg layers of interesting looking birds and sent a collection of 15 eggs of Ameraucana, Silkies in a variety of colors, Naked Neck Turkins, and frizzles. The colors of the eggs I received were really great! There were tan, olive green, and two shades of blue.
I can see that I have one Turkin because it’s the only chick without feathers on its neck. The others are interesting colors but I’m not sure yet what I’ve got out there. Once they’re old enough to sex I’ll figure out what to keep and what to sell and look forward to then finding out what color eggs I’ll be getting. Very egg-citing!
Buffy just loves being a mom and she’s very good at it. I let the other chickens out to free-range and close their access off to the henyard, then I open the broody box gate and let Buff take her babies out for a private scratching match. That’ll work great until they’re bigger and she’s ready to bring them out onto the property. For now they’re snack-size morsels for the Muscovy so I’ll keep them in a safe place until they’re old enough. Wow… 10 more chickens! Wonder how many will turn out to be roo’s?
I noticed last week that one of the Wellies seemed to have a very prominent comb so I started watching them a bit more. I noticed that two of them did a lot of “play fighting” while the other two would perch quietly and watch the activity in the barnyard. Then I was taking some photos and noticed that the coloring and tailfeathers were different. The girls are very light colored at this point and the boys have black feathers jutting out of their backside. Now when I look at them I can’t see how I missed it to begin with! The difference in their combs is pretty clear.
They're all still pretty tiny right now and these traits only just started to show. But next time I raise Welsummers I'll probably see the signs much sooner.
Well, I really don’t think it’s prudent to have 3 roosters running around when I only have 9 hens…unfortunately, in these days of urban chickens, most folks aren’t looking for a roo around their house because they tend to be a little on the noisy side. Personally, I enjoy the sound of a rooster crowing but I've discovered that I'm an anomaly. Because it would appear thaton that my immediate neighbors do not. Hopefully someone will want to take these pretty boys home; otherwise they’ll have to go to freezer camp with the extra drakes I haven’t been able to send to new families.
I couldn’t keep them all locked in their barns with 100 degree heat so I only gave them a relatively small outdoor area and, other than stretching bird netting over an acre of woods, I tried every trick and crazy suggestion in the book over the several days my ducks were being attacked - most of the “tried and true” methods were completely ineffective. The one thing that worked was creating a giant web of 20lb test fishing line about 7 feet above the ground over their enclosures and play areas. I wish I had found this solution the first day! The night after I put a section of web up I came home feeling very anxious… it worked!! Over the next few days I spent hours stringing webs of fishing line over the back acre of my property so the ducks could safely free-range. This has been tremendously effective.
On a happy note, over the last few days little Splash has found his place with the Harlequin. They’ve finally accepted him as one of their own and a few times this weekend I saw him “leading the pack” as they waddled across the barnyard, which made me smile for him. All the ducks are enjoying their freedom and with the high heat index I put out several small pools for them to splash in and they seem to be having a rompin’ good time.
The chickens, baby chicks, and baby ducks were unaffected by the hawk. Apparently, this raptor had her mind set on grown duck for dinner so – thankfully – I had no losses in that area. In fact, the baby ducks are growing by leaps and bounds! They’re mostly feathered out and the girls have found their quackers. No little budgie sounds from their play pen anymore…they’re a pretty noisy bunch these days – LOL!
They have 2 litter pan pools and a bigger 36-inch tub to splash around in. They just love the water so much I can’t imagine depriving them of a proper pond! There are two little Khaki Campbell ducklings in this bunch and they had me cracking up this weekend. I sit out there and have a beer with them most evenings after my chores are done and all 13 of them were trying to cram themselves into the 2 litter pans then they would all run over to the bigger tub and jump in there for a while, then back to the pans. They’re just making this huge mess, chasing each other back and forth, flapping their wings and quack-quack-quacking… basically having a ball. I noticed these baby Campbell’s just seemed so extra excited about their little game and one of the girls was dipping her head into the water, splashing it all over, then loudly stamping her feet in the puddle she was making. It was just so funny! She would make this excited little qUAck, then DipSplash, DribbleDribble, then do this little dance… SplatSpatSplat! Made me think of a kid in his little gumboots… too cute!
It was miserably hot this weekend and in the middle of the day the geese would hog up a whole litter pan just sitting in it to cool off. I was jealous that I didn’t have a tub of water to sit in myself! And up until this weekend the Harlequin only thought of me as the crazy lady who stuffed them into a big dog kennel and drove them across town in a hot car. When I was in their line of sight they boogied it on out of the area. But over the last few days we’ve become very good friends. They heard me filling one of the kiddie pools this weekend and ran right over to see what that wonderful noise was. They stood off at a “safe” distance panting in the heat and watching me fill the pool with cold water and while I chatted away they inched closer and closer. I turned the hose sprayer to mist and aimed it at them and they were just in heaven! They came right up to within about a foot of me and the boys aimed their big chests into the spray while the girls tried to catch the bigger drops with their beaks. Now any time I turn on the hose they run over and want to be showered! I guess I’m no longer the crazy lady because now they tend to congregate wherever I’m hanging out in the yard. They probably don't want to miss an opportunity to get a cool dousing!
This last is completely unrelated to ducks: if you enjoy reading about my farm please check out this gals blog. She and I have a lot in common and her posts usually make me laugh which was a much needed antidote for last week!
For the first couple of days they would tag along with Buffy for food, but she no longer makes that clucking noise letting them know where to find the food. Buff wants to hunt for bugs with the other hens or eats her own food just for herself instead making sure the Wellie babies get their share first. By the middle of the week the babies got the message and now fend for themselves at the feeder and forage for themselves when they're free-ranging; so now they've formed their own little 4-girl flock.
Before Buff "pushed them out of the nest", when I would lock them up at night the babies would be under the cover of Buffy's wings away from the other hens on a far roost. But now Buff has taken up her old place and sleeps with the other layers and the little Wellie girls are still on the far roost but sleeping bunched up together without a mamma hen. And now there is that familiar pinkish brown egg to make up 7 eggs in the nest box again every day :)
They seem to have taken to it well, but like all teenagers they like to stay up late doing Lord-knows-what and forget to get into the henhouse with the rest of the girls when it's dark. One morning when I went to unlock the henhouse I saw 3 of the 4 fly out of the holly tree in the henyard! They must've been out hunting bugs late because I didn't lock everyone up until about 9 pm (the hens usually hit the roost by 8 - but those ducks like to stay out late).
My little Welsummer cockerel (see him at the bottom of this page) decided a few weeks ago that he absolutely was NOT sleeping in the henhouse and would rather roost up in the holly tree - no amount of convincing was getting him to change his mind either. But I guess those baby Welsummer girls figured they'd roost with him for the night since they'd missed curfew. He's a scrapper already by the way he bosses those big ducks (the Chickens boss him terribly so I guess he's lashing out) and I reckon they were as safe as they could have been outside of their house. I still tsk'd at them and told them that if that foolish young cockerel didn't have enough sense to be in the safety of the henhouse they sure didn't have to follow his example by making themselves owl food too! Now I do a flashlight headcount when I lock up the doors at night. I haven't had any more trouble so far. :)
Buffy’s babies have grown so much! They’re all feathered out now and running all over the property chasing bugs and scratching in the grass. I’ve got to say that it’s a million times easier to let the chickens raise up the babies!
A couple of weeks ago she moved them into the henhouse with the rest of the chickens. I was surprised to see them all perched way up high and thought, “how in the world did they get up there?” I guess they’re light enough and those little wings can carry them pretty high. I should dig out the ramp I used to have in there when my layers were just little pullets. I took it out when they were big enough that they didn’t need the ramp. Once those Wellie girls start to put on some weight I think they’ll have a harder time hoping up that high.
I guess I’ll be getting my first eggs from these girls in November (or maybe even October). How egg-citing!
My three juvenile Khaki Campbell’s were put out to roam for the very first time this weekend. I worried mostly that they wouldn’t know where to go in at night because for all their little lives I’ve carried them back and forth from grazing pen to the barn in a Rubbermaid tub. So early one morning I put them into the duck enclosure while the Harlequin were lazily sleeping-in inside the duck barn. The Campbell’s weren’t sure what to do with themselves at first but found the little pond in the enclosure and set up shop. When the Welsh Harlequin came out and saw these strange ducks in their pond they chased the Campbell’s out of it. Those little KC’s were determined to make friends with their new found barn-mates and were undeterred by the wing flapping and squawking. The Harlequin were not overly mean but certainly didn’t think they needed any new additions to their little group. So when they set off to forage out on the property the determined Campbell’s waddled along behind. Soon they were accepted at the lunch table with the cool kids... but at the bottom of the pecking order. They still won’t go in the duck barn by themselves yet. It seems like the Harlequin have made it known that the duck barn is their domain, but there is soooo much room in there! The Campbell’s can have half all to themselves, for goodness sake. So every night I gather up my little brown ducks and stuff them in the pop-hole to sleep in the in safety with the others. Eventually they’ll get it figured out.
The Muscovy have become even more friendly… when I sit on the ground out in the barnyard taking pictures they come right up, almost in my lap, to see what I’m doing. I was surprised a few times because I had my eye up to the viewfinder and didn’t see them all sneak up on me. They’re probably looking for a treat! I came out with some wilted asparagus the other day and as I was tossing sticks of asparagus to them they were running over to get some and stealing it from each other. Poor things… that stuff was wilted but it still has such a tough outer skin that they had to chew and chew and chew.
I’ve got my eye on three Muscovy that I’d like to keep for my own flock. The whole group is friendly and extremely curious but some of them are genuine characters and a couple of the girls are very pretty. One of the really big boys likes to eat the feed right out of the bucket when I’m filling the feeders. So I pour some in the feeder, then hold out the bucket for him to grab a few mouthfuls, then fill the other feeders. He follows me around and it’s like “one for me, one for the rest of you jokers”. He likes to be petted too… he’s pretty cute so I’ll probably keep him.
I lost a juvenile Harlequin drake and a Muscovy duck to aerial predators this week while I was at work. Either a very large hawk or an eagle, based on the size and weight of the ducks. It’s very sad when this happens and it really freaks the other ducks out. They all stayed inside for the better part of 2 days after the attack but they’re finally back out free ranging cautiously. Though the Muscovy are sticking very close to the barn and trying to stay out of the open. The dogs are very good at keeping the ground predators away; I’ve never had trouble with birds of prey during the day so this is new to the dogs. I know blue jays, robins, and crows are great at keeping the airspace clear of aerial hunters so I’ll need to be sure to provide plenty of feed for those birds too. Having geese and turkeys usually works well also, maybe I should hang on to those 2 sweet American Lavender-ice geese…
They were sold as a single lot so I obviously got more fowl than I really needed here, which means I have to make the difficult decision about which of these little fuzzies I want to sell! It's always hard when they're so cute and entertaining. But I can already see that I don't have anywhere near enough grass on my property to support these two geese. They're rather sweet little gals but they eat grass as a primary source of food and if they eat all my grass the other birds won't have as many cool places to forage for bugs. But these are Holderread geese that fetch a premium price as hatchlings so I shouldn't have any trouble selling them for half their value when they're fully started. They're sure sweet tho...
They really seem to be thriving and so happy. I've got them out on a large patch of grass in a movable enclosure and I repurposed an old doghouse for a "Duckloo" shelter. This big group is actually a lot of fun to watch - it's my evening duck TV. They really have such a flocking nature and are, as a whole, so much more excitable than the Muscovy. That's not saying much though - LOL! The geese are rather calm but the others... not so much. The flightiest of all are the Indian Runners. But aren't they a hoot? They stand straight up, like a person, and boy can they move! They don't have a ducky waddle like the rest, when they stand up they run across their enclosure and everyone follows in an excited, peeping stampeed!
Along with the babies I also acquired a group of 11 beautiful Welsh Harlequin. Two are laying now, which is a bonus, and 4 will begin laying this fall. There are more drakes than is truly optimal so I'll offer some of them for sale - and if they're not in a new home by next month they'll go into the next harvest.
I gave the grown Harlequin the entire duck barn and duck enclosure all to themselves until they get settled in. They're still figuring out their new home and aren't used to my schedule yet - which is evidenced by the fact that I've only collected 1 egg from the 2 layers in 4 days. Convincing them to go inside the duckbarn the first two nights was hard - I finally had to scoop them up one by one and stuff them inside. They're catching on more every day so I think by this weekend I'll let them out onto the property to free range. They've finally learned to go back inside through their little pop-door when it gets dark, which is excellent (or at least one has learned and the rest are following). No more duck-chase at bedtime :) I just wanted them to know where to come back to every night before I let them roam.
The Harlequin are still very unsure of me so it's hard to get photos. I can watch them splashing in their pool and chattering to each other only if I hide behind something and peek around - LOL! As soon as I'm in their line of sight they all scurry into the duck barn. Which is the opposite of the babies... when they see me coming to lock up the Duckloo for the night they all come pouring out and I have to gather them up and put them in by hand. They've got the first part figured out: go inside at dark. I hope soon they understand they need to stay in until I get the door closed!
I'm now up to 6 seperate enclosures to feed and water twice a day (if I don't count Buffy's broody-box)... Whew! Boy, my little farm is growing every time I turn around!
Oh my! At only 2 1/2 weeks these little guys are just plain growing faster than their feathers can keep up with! They seem to be none-the-worse for wear but they're not wearing much these days - LOL! Half naked little birds... as hot as it's been they're probably more comfortable this way, they certainly seem to be producing a lot of heat. I picked one up to get a better look and he was really warm so I guess I shouldn't worry about them getting a chill. I keep a fan in the barn to move the air around, they seem appropriately active, and they're definitely eating plenty.
Hope they get some feathers soon... it's just scandalous for them to run around looking like this!
The ducklings are going through their "ugly duckling" phase as they start to get feathers over their fuzz. But the new feathers coming in look so nice... they're getting to be very handsome. The Campbell's are getting their little tweed coats with that nice, herringbone brown coloring and the Muscovy have just a little bit of yellow fuzz poking up around shiny white feathers.
The Campbell's are very active and running around finding bugs, dabbling in their water pan, and chatting amongst themselves companionably. They rest a lot in the tall grass during the heat of the day and I wish they'd dunk themselves in the water but they don't seem to be interested in swimming. They just stick their heads underwater and messily splash and flick it all around, but they don't get in. Oh well.
The Muscovy are growing so fast! They remind me of my mastiffs they way they lay around and want me to just step over them rather than move. As they've matured they've really quieted down too. They used to make their little duckling peeps but now they're growing into new vocalizations... or lack thereof. The males just make a sort of panting sound and the females are making a soft purr-squeek. They really only "talk" when I pick them up or they're upset about something.
We've had some serious thunderstorms lately and they all got caught in a terrible downpour last Thursday - the the rain drops were huge and the thunder was tremendous! I had a couple of shelters for them outside but since the whole group couldn't entirely fit into a single shelter they wouldn't go in at all. I was afraid it might hail again like it did last week and I felt terrible seeing them marching all tucked together back and forth from one place to another so I got a big tarp and went out in the pouring rain to make a single shelter for them.
Let me just say right now... that was a terrible idea.
When they saw me unfolding this big brown thing they totally freaked out and stampeded. Poor ducks! I eventually collected them all up and put them on fresh, dry straw in the barn. Those Muskovy were mad at me for 3 days after that... they would all crowd together in a corner and glare at me when I came in to feed them. But by Sunday they were back to their usual ultra-calm selves again and they decided it might be OK to go back outside. Or at least half of them did... the other half sat on the barn door threshold and just looked out.
The Campbell's were totally over it in, like, 10 minutes. LOL!
They love it when I salt the yard with fresh straw... they all run right out to eat up the seed heads. Must be like hershey kisses in the chicken world! Then they scratch around under it to see if any bugs might be hiding down there. One of those chicks caught herself a cricket or something and I heard this ruckus of complaining cheeps then I saw her running across the yard with this bug sticking out of her beak. All the babies were chasing her, complaining the whole time, and she was playing a good game of keep-away. The early bird catches the grasshopper!
They're doing a lot of hopping, flapping and general running around and I can tell that Buffy feels that they're safest when she has the henyard to herself. So I let everyone else out - except the two juvenile birds who are still too young to wander - and Buffy just lets her babies run like crazy all over.